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Trump Won't Listen to Khashoggi Tape   11/19 06:09

   President Donald Trump said there is no reason for him to listen to a 
recording of the "very violent, very vicious" killing of Saudi journalist Jamal 
Khashoggi, which has put him in a diplomatic bind: how to admonish Riyadh for 
the slaying yet maintain strong ties with a close ally.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump said there is no reason for him to 
listen to a recording of the "very violent, very vicious" killing of Saudi 
journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has put him in a diplomatic bind: how to 
admonish Riyadh for the slaying yet maintain strong ties with a close ally.

   Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday, made clear that the audio 
recording, supplied by the Turkish government, would not affect his response to 
the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who had 
been critical of the Saudi royal family.

   "It's a suffering tape, it's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it, 
there's no reason for me to hear it," Trump said in the interview with "Fox 
News Sunday." ''I know everything that went on in the tape without having to 
hear it."

   On Saturday, Trump said his administration will "be having a very full 
report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday." He said the report 
will include "who did it." It was unclear if the report would be made public.

   American intelligence agencies have concluded that the crown prince ordered 
the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, according to a U.S. official 
familiar with the assessment. The official was not authorized to discuss the 
matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Others familiar with 
the case caution that while it's likely the crown prince was involved in the 
death, there continue to be questions about what role he played.

   Trump noted to "Fox News Sunday" that the crown prince has repeatedly denied 
being involved in the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

   "Will anybody really know?" Trump asked. "At the same time, we do have an 
ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good."

   A Republican member of the Senate intelligence committee said that so far, 
there is no "smoking gun" linking the crown prince to the killing. Sen. Roy 
Blunt of Missouri, who has received a confidential intelligence briefing on the 
matter, told ABC that "it's hard to imagine" that the crown prince didn't know 
about the killing, but he said, "I don't know that we absolutely know that yet."

   He said that Congress will await the Trump administration's report in the 
next two days and that the U.S. will need to be clear about the ramifications 
of sanctions, given Saudi Arabia's strategic role in the Middle East.

   For his part, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the crown prince has 
been a "wrecking ball" in the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

   "I hate to say that because I had a lot of hope for him being the reformer 
that Saudi Arabia needs, but that ship has sailed as far as Lindsey Graham's 
concerned," the South Carolina Republican told NBC's "Meet the Press."

   "I have no intention of working with him ever again," said Graham, who is in 
line to be the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

   Intelligence officials have been providing information to Trump for weeks 
about the death, and he was briefed again by phone Saturday by CIA Director 
Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he flew to California. White 
House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call 
but said the president has confidence in the CIA.

   "The United States government is determined to hold all those responsible 
for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable," the State Department said in a 
statement. "Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final 
conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with 
respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi."

   The statement added: "The U.S. government has taken decisive measures 
against the individuals responsible, including visa and sanctions actions. We 
will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable who 
planned, led and were connected to the murder. And, we will do that while 
maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and 
Saudi Arabia."

   Before his call on Air Force One, Trump told reporters that when it came to 
the crown prince, "as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. 
We're going to have to find out what they have to say." That echoed remarks by 
national security adviser John Bolton, who said earlier this week that people 
who have listened to an audio recording of the killing do not think it 
implicates the crown prince.

   Germany's foreign minister on Monday said Berlin had banned 18 Saudi 
nationals from entering Europe's border-free Schengen zone because they are 
believed to be connected to Khashoggi's killing. Heiko Maas told reporters in 
Brussels on Monday that Germany issued the ban for the 26-nation zone in close 
coordination with France, which is part of the Schengen area, and Britain, 
which is not. He said the 18 Saudis are "allegedly connected to this crime" but 
gave no further information and didn't release their names.

   Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very 
poorly and has said "the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history 
of cover-ups."

   But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been 
reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital 
allies in his Mideast agenda.

   But members of Congress are pushing Trump for a tougher response to the 
killing. The administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for 
their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the 
administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher 
punitive measures.

   Turkish and Saudi authorities say Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United 
States, was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he 
went there to get marriage documents.


(KA)

 
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